Leonid Utyosov’s 125th Birthday – Today’s Doodle celebrates the 125th birthday of Soviet musician, singer, and actor Leonid Utyosov who is credited with leading one of the Soviet Union’s early jazz bands.
Lazar Iosifovich Weissbein was born on this day 1895 to a middle-class family in Odessa (now part of Ukraine). By the end of his teen years, he had taken work as a circus acrobat, stand-up comedian, and theater actor, assuming the stage name Leonid Utyosov. After winning a singing competition, the multi-talented Utyosov formed a band and began touring Moscow, appearing regularly at the city’s famous Hermitage Theater.
While on tour in 1928, Utyosov experienced his first encounter with American jazz, and he was hooked. The next year, he debuted the Tea-Jazz Orchestra, which blended diverse styles, including American jazz, Jewish folk music, Argentinian tangos, and Russian lullabies, and achieved major popularity.
In a return to acting, Utyosov starred in the Hollywood-style hit film Vesyolye rebyata (Jolly Fellows, 1934) which introduced Soviet audiences to a variety of new music and earned him increased exposure across the country.
For his considerable contributions to music and film, Utyosov was designated the 1965 People’s Artist of the USSR, and in 2000, a statue was erected in his honor in his hometown of Odessa.
С днем рождения, Леонид Утесов! (“Happy birthday, Leonid Utyosov!”)
Today’s Doodle was created by Doodler Nate Swinehart.
Below, he shares some thoughts on the making of the Doodle:
Q: What was it like to get to work on this Doodle?
A: It was a great creative challenge and learning experience! I was very inspired learning about Leonid Utyosov and the history of Russian Jazz music.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: Most of the photo references I found for Leonid Utyosov showed a big bright smile and were full of joy and life, so I wanted to capture that spirit. I love the graphic art style seen on Jazz posters. The freeform, fun and loose line art style of Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures and UPA Style were my main visual references.
Q: What was your creative approach for this Doodle? Why did you choose this approach?
A: I listened to a lot of Jazz music while drawing! Listening to music gets me in the right headspace about the topic.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I hope people remember Leonid Utyosov’s joyful nature and the music he created, and that anyone who isn’t familiar with him is inspired to learn more about his work!
Early concepts and sketches of the Doodle
You can find more about Leonid Utyosov’s 125th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page